Big Third Set Keeps Dalhausser/Lucena in Contention for Bye to Playoffs

TOKYO (July 29, 2021) – After struggling to sustain momentum during the first two sets, Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena found a renewed spirit in the third, using that energy to power to a 2-1 win (21-19, 18-21, 15-6) over Argentina’s Nicolas Capogrosso/Julian Amado Azaad on Thursday at Shiokaze Park.

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With the win, Dalhausser/Lucena clinch at least a third-place finish in pool D and one more match at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. The pool’s final standings depend on a match between Brazil’s Alison Cerutti/Alvaro Morais Filho and the Netherlands’ Alexander Brouwer/Robert Meeuwsen. Should the Dutch team win, Dalhausser/Lucena will finish second in the pool and earn a bye to the playoffs. If Cerutti/Alvaro Filho win, Dalhausser/Lucena will be in a three-way tie for first place but can only rank second or third based on the tiebreaker – point ratio – and may have to play in a Lucky Loser single elimination match.

“I thought we were playing real tentative, not loose, kinda flat,” Lucena said. “Something’s not clicking yet. It happened in the third set. Hopefully we can use that momentum heading into the elimination match.”

Dalhausser led all players with 19 points, one ahead of Lucena’s 18. Both landed 17 attack points, and Dalhausser blocked two shots. Lucena was credited with one. They combined for 34 attack points – four more than Capogrosso/Azaad – and benefited from 17 Argentine errors.

The U.S. jumped out to a 4-2 lead in the third set, and it was the next point that propelled Dalhausser/Lucena off to victory. Dalhausser hit a pass directly into the net, Lucena sprinted up and put a diving set to the ball, and Dalhausser pounded it down to for a 5-2 advantage.

“That was a huge momentum shift,” Dalhausser said. “They think they’re getting a point, then…”
Argentina did take the next point after, but the energy from that play carried forward. Up 6-4, Dalhausser/Lucena won six consecutive points to take command of the shortened set, 12-4. Four points later, Lucena hit off the block to clinch the set 15-6 and the match two sets to one.

The U.S. led most of the first set, but never by more than three points, and the Argentinians turned aside a pair of set points before Dalhausser finished it with a kill. The second set followed a similar script, only in Capogrosso/Azaad’s favor.

That match between Alison/Alvaro Filho and Brouwer/Meeuwsen takes place at 6:00 a.m. Pacific Thursday (10 p.m. local). Any Lucky Loser match would take place Saturday, July 31 local.


Team Slaes Efficient in Win over Kenya

TOKYO (July 29, 2021) – After waiting two days between their first and second Olympic matches, Kelly Claes and Sarah Sponcil needed only 25 minutes to beat Gaudencia Makokha and Brackcides Khadambi of Kenya, 2-0 (21-8, 21-6) on Thursday.

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Claes/Sponcil and Makokha/Khadambi were the final two beach volleyball teams to play their second matches of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. Sixteen other teams scheduled to play Thursday will each conclude the three-match pool play schedule.

The extra rest between matches – on the FIVB World Tour, teams may have just a few hours to recover – didn’t faze Claes, though.

“I kinda love it,” she said. “You get to rest versus sometimes on the FIVB Tour you’re traveling to a different country every week. You’re just trying to grind through it instead of physically and emotionally and spiritually recharged and present. I feel like we’re going to see the best of everyone because of the setup. I think this is so cool.”

Not only were Claes/Sponcil efficient with their time, they were efficient in their attacks, too. Claes scored 11 points on just 12 swings and Sponcil was eight for 10. Claes added two points on the block, and Sponcil served up five aces.

The win moved Claes/Sponcil to 2-0, atop pool D and guaranteed the team at least one additional match in Tokyo. While they have not officially sewn up a spot in the playoffs, they can finish no lower than third, which means they’ll at least be in the Lucky Loser single-elimination round. The duo’s final pool play match will take place Friday, July 30 at 5 p.m. Pacific (July 31 at 9 a.m. local) against Ana Patricia/Rebecca of Brazil.

This was the first meeting between Claes/Sponcil and Makokha/Khadambi. Sponcil enjoyed the challenge a new team presented.

“It’s great seeing other countries. It just shows how big this sport is,” she said. “We’re hoping more countries like Kenya can come to FIVBs. It’s always nice to have a different team; it challenges us to develop different strategies.”